Although I had been out in the Great Victoria Desert twice on my last trips, the weather was perfect for yet another one. Finishing work at 1100 on the Friday, I rushed home to complete the final packing and hit the road early Friday afternoon. The plan was to meet my work mate, Len out at Mundaring around 1400, then head East for a few hours and pull up somewhere unplanned before dark. That would at least get us a few hundred Km's closer to the desert.
We got as far as Burracoppin before the sun was going down. Spying a nature reserve on my maps, we headed South and had a scout around. Unfortunately, there was nothing suitable there, however we did find a large gravel pit and pulled up stumps for the night. I love gravel pits (when it's dry, anyway), they make a great place for a quick overnight stop.
So it had been a long day for me, having started work at 0500. With a nice little fire going, dinner done and a glass or two of red, it was time for bed. Tomorrow would be a big day, traversing unknown routes and not even sure if we could get through my planned, unknown tracks. Time will tell I guess.
Waking before sun up, it was a cold morning. The awning had a nice coating of ice on the underside. With breakfast and coffee done, we hit the road for Kalgoorlie, the start of our trek into the GVD.
Even by the time we had hit kal, I was behind schedule to what I had planned to achieve. We pushed on, up unknown roads for my planned camp. However some 50Km's short of where I had planned to camp, I found an abandoned homestead on my maps. I suggested to Len that we should go in for a look. If it had a suitable clearing and timber, we should try to utilise it, because where I had planned to camp was an unknown venture. A short trek down the station track and I was delighted. Old homestead ruins, timber everywhere and lots of cleared ground. We had found the perfect camp for the night.
Interestingly, what I saw in the distance that I thought was a raised pad for a building of some description, was actually once a swimming pool. What a stunning find that was:
We managed a reasonable distance for the day and had an enjoyable night by the bush telly.
The next morning the fun would begin. Trying to see if we could navigate this country and it's unknown tracks into the desert. It didn't take long, some 30Km's up the road we were thwarted by what now is a large mining operation. All my tracks led into the minesite all with 'authorised entry" signs. I was about to go into the site office to ask for alternative routes, when I decided to back track a little to see if we could find a track heading East. And that I did, a feint track that we followed led us around the Southern boundary of the mine site and got us onto the Nippon Highway, a highway by name, not stature.
Whilst it was a slow track, we were making progress. From this point on, I was concerned our passage through to Laverton may just give us some drama's. The Donkey track we were on turned into a super highway. Now whilst there was no signage at all, this had to be a "private" haul road. How dare they: Consume crown land and pastoral lease roads into private entities. So with no other option, or signage telling us to keep out, we hit the super highway.
20 odd Kilometres down, with no sign of haul trucks or other mining traffic, the superhighway veered North East of the Nippon highway. We were now on unplotted ground according to the map. I noted a track a bit further on that looked like we would cross. This would then take us down to the Nippon again. So we turned South at the track junction and found mulga and spinifex. We had hit the desert.
A short journey down this track and we re-joined the Nippon, unsure of what the track conditions would be like. Well it turns out, it was bloody fantastic. Typical for most tracks you see making their way through desert country. Some large swathes of burnt out country gave a different perspective of the landscape. Interestingly though, the highway seemed to end at a T junction not marked on my map. So we turned East and still appeared to be on the Nippon. It would be easy to lose ones way if coming from the other direction. Making the turn off for Queen Victoria Springs (A life saver for Ernest Giles after crossing the desert in 1875, after 17 days without water), we decided to have lunch.
And what a place to have chicko rolls and chips for lunch!
Queen Victoria Springs has always been on my bucket list. Not this trip however, we have too much other ground to cover. From here I was worried, haul roads, baseline roads and other unknown entities marked on our maps were in our path. Falling behind time, and worried about the scale of vegetation over the tracks, I decided to give lake Minigwal a miss this time around and make direct line for Plumridge Lakes.
A good decision this turned out to be too. Apart form some slight navigation decisions to make, it was pretty uneventful. The surrounding country side very reminiscent of the Anne Beadell Highway, East of Neales junction.
Hitting the Plumridge lakes Nature Reserve boundary, the vegetation immediately started to close in. Nothing drastic, but nothing like we had seen so far either. About 20Km's from Salt Creek Junction, I whizzed past what I thought to be a nice little clearing. Turning back, we were again rewarded with an ideal desert camp site for the night.
The mornings were getting warmer now and we were getting into the swing of life on the road in the desert.
Unfortunately for Len, he discovered he had a flat tyre. At least it wasn't me this time. It took us a bit to actually find the hole, such was the minuscule sidewall stake, but find it we did, and now being plugged up we hit the track again but not until 1000. So a late start today:
It didn't take long to be stuck behind a ship of the desert. After about 3km, we just pulled up for a bit to let him go. Unfortunately, after we took off again,we caught up with him, still running down the same bloody track. With no room to veer past and force him into the country where he belongs, we were stuck behind the juggernaut for about 6km's before he turned left. Stupid bloody animals......
Approaching Salt Creek Junction, an unmarked track appeared on our left, looking in great condition. We continued Right and made the junction. The Cable haul road going South from here looked a bit vegetated. It certainly wasn't a haul road as I expected. Further reading once home tells me it was the haul road used by Charlie Cable, in the 1930's, to get his sandlewood from Plumridge down to the railway for transport to Fremantle.
Having come all this way, it was silly not to venture the 60 odd Km round trip from the Junction out to the lakes. A rather easy drive, however, the track not used as much had vegetation encroaching in parts. Some Stuart desert peas were seen reasonably frequently. The best example occurring at the Junction for Plumridge Lakes itself:
After short drive through some interesting breakaway country, we get to the Southern most point of the group of lakes collectively known as Plumridge.
Whilst the track kept going North for a few Kilometres, we were happy enough with just taking some pics at this Southern edge. So we turned around and headed back to Salt creek Junction.
We spotted some piles of sandlewood spoils on the way and stopped for a look. All we could think of was how hard this must have been to harvest by hand, in some pretty inhospitable country. They bred them tough in the old days, for sure.
Back at the Junction, our navigation issues took a turn for the worst. Thinking we were now heading North up the Lake Rason Rd, the track petered out to nothing. Bugger.....what to do now....well, it seems there is a track 20Km's back towards Plumridge (which we remembered passing), which also joins the lake Rason Rd. So with a quick spot of lunch, we ventured back 20Km's and turned North.
What a saga this turned out to be. It started off fine, but gradually deteriorated. Once again mowing spinifex, scraping vegetation down the sides of the vehicles and slow going. It took us an hour to complete this 18Km stretch of track.
Once at the Lake Rason Rd intersection however, the track looked like I had expected. We would make good progress now. We also found the junction of the track we initially tried to use (the abandoned airstrip). It looked great......
In hindsight, and not before reviewing my video (at home) on our initial approach to Salt Creek Junction....we passed a well formed track heading North (left) just before the junction. This will be the track we should have taken. It seems the track we took that ran out, was the old airstrip. That explains the few white 44gal drums we saw. Our maps show both an airstrip just to the North of the Junction and a track to the North. It appears the track may have been re-aligned at some stage and is now a few hundred meters to the West. Either that or my mapping is not 100% correct.
Oh well, next time I will remember that and avoid that 18Km shitty track out.
So with time getting away from us after the detour to Plumridge, the return from the Junction and the slow track North, we pushed on to find a suitable camp for the night. The sun soon to be setting for the day.
I mentioned to Len that there would probably be an area at the start of the nature reserve, just as there was on the other side. That comment turned out to be correct, as we found out the following morning, however, we found a suitable clearing a few Km's before we got to this point and made camp for the night. It had been a long, arduous day (even taking the late start into account) and we had only travelled 140Km's for the day. Ironically, as the crow flies, we were only 30Km's from last nights camp. Go figure!
As morning rises on another day, it's time for coffee:
Len chills with a cuppa by the fire:
We have lots of things to do today, so it's back on the road we go. By this stage, I have canned the idea of getting out to the Dr Hicks Range, we just wont have the time - I had planned to be there last night. Best laid plans and all..
The lake Rason Rd up from Plumridge turned out to be a pretty decent track as I thought it would be. So we made good time. The only vehicle we passed on the whole trip was on this stretch. A few fella's in a 79 series, one with a 7 Mil Remmington sitting on the rear tray, hunting camels. We mentioned we had seen a couple on the shitty track down to Plumridge, and some the day before, outside the Nature Reserve boundary. After a short chat, we wished them well and continued on, eventually, getting out of the active mining area - The Tropicanna mine is out here somewhere, but we didn't have the time to look around for its evidence. There was a road junction to the West a few km's back - with some safety signage - I suspect that is the mining operation:
And pretty soon after, we made the Spackman/lake Rason intersection. Here we headed East (the opposite direction of 7 millers shack - our intended camp for the night) for a knob with Frank Hann's inscription emblazoned on its peak. The knob itself quite prominent, we had no trouble finding it:
With lunch now done, a quick walk to the summit provided me with the goods. Frank Hann's inscription: some +110 years old:
Whilst it was pretty warm today, the wind was certainly blowing. I was unsure how this would affect us at our intended camp at the shack tonight - would we be able to have a fire?? Best we get underway to get there before dark I reckon:
There sure is some spectacular scenery out this way. I would love to come back and have a week at least, just checking out all the terrain:
We made the shack late afternoon, just in time for a magnificent sunset:
And guess what: the wind dropped off as the sun went down, so our firewood collecting when we arrived to the shack wasn't wasted. Dino guarding the 7 Millers Shack:
A more productive 355Km's done for the day:
After a pleasant night by the fire, morning comes around and the sad reality that it's time for 2 days of travel for home. More spectacular scenery is traversed on the way out to Laverton, that I just don't have time to explore. best I leave something for another day anyway, that way I have more excuses to come back.
len had found that his years old steel jerry can had sprung a leak and used some bush ingenuity to get it out for disposal in a proper rubbish bin. I must say, one thing I relish in these remote areas is the distinct lack of rubbish left about.
Making Laverton for a pie and a refuel, we decided to get some Km's down in the afternoon to make the last day less arduous. Unfortunately, len decided he still had more time to play, whilst I had to return to work, so we parted company in Menzies. len planning on lake Ballard for the night, myself, pushing Westwards from Kalgoorlie for as much ground as I could cover before nightfall.
I ended up making Boondie Rock just on dark. Light rain was starting to fall after Kal, so I found some appropriate shelter, should it get worse throughout the night (it didn't).
A more respectable 670Km's for the day, no doubt helped by the fact 2/3's of that was now highway black top:
Come morning, I was left with a 500 odd Km stretch for home. The canola in the wheatbelt was looking it's spectacular best:
After 7 days, I made home. Happy in the fact I got my dose of "black fella" feet.
Another successful trip, travelling tracks unknown, just squiggly lines on a map beforehand. Apart from the exit from Plumridge, all tracks were pretty good to traverse. And I have left a desire to explore some more in the area. I could spend a lifetime out here and never see it all I reckon.
6 nights under canvas
2704 km travelled
326 L fuel used
Best consumption: 9.8L/100, Worst 13.3L/100
for a trip average of 12.0L/100
cost of fuel $603
camp fees $0 - No camp fee's out here 👍.
The running tally of nights under canvas now stands at 24